Food Truck, Festivals, and Gluten-Free Food Fun
When the weather is great, there are so many opportunities to eat outside—from outdoor cafes, to barbeques, to picnics, not to mention fairs (check out our article with gluten-free fair food coverage from the Alaska State Fair), festivals, and food trucks!
If you’re eating and living gluten-free, dining outdoors can present a variety of challenges as you work diligently to avoid gluten. We’re here to help you navigate those activities and venues where the risk of cross-contact can be high.
Can you get gluten-free food from a food truck? Well, yes and no. Some food trucks might offer gluten-free options but keep in mind several things:
- They may not know what gluten-free means.
- They may understand what gluten-free is but may not know about cross-contact risks.
- They may not be able to avoid cross-contact due to the small size of their kitchen.
The safest choice is a vendor offering exclusively gluten-free fare such as naturally gluten-free fruits and vegetables or an entirely gluten-free menu. Bar that, you should be ready to ask questions such as:
- Does that dish contain flour? If so, is it wheat flour? (Or soy sauce—many people do not know soy sauce usually contains gluten—or that gluten could be in food truck fare in other unexpected ingredients like teriyaki sauce).
- Can you verify that?
- Who could I speak with to verify that?
- Do you make it from scratch, or does it come in a package?
- Could I see the packaging to double-check the label?
- Are you using the same oil to fry gluten-free food as food with gluten?
If it is a hot dog or burger truck, unless they use only gluten-free buns, the risk of cross-contact with gluten-containing crumbs is high. A doughnut or cupcake truck is more likely a haven for gluten than a flavored ice or ice cream truck if you can check on the flavors and toppings.
Typically, there are lines at food trucks so you may not have enough time to ask the questions to feel confident about the food you are about to order. If the food truck has a website, Facebook, or other online presence, try contacting them in advance with your questions so you can pick the right dish. Another option is to visit the food truck before meal rush hours so the staff can respond to your questions undistracted.
In most communities, you have your choice of festivals and fairs to enjoy during the summer months, from music festivals to art and Renaissance fairs. Most food vendors at these types of events operate independently and rent space to have a booth or other type of stand. They may be less experienced and knowledgeable about gluten-free food preparation. What does that mean for you, the person enjoying the festivities but needing to make sure the food you eat is gluten-free? It means that you’ll need to be careful when ordering food from various vendors who may, or may not, know how to watch out for gluten.
Use the same questions listed above to start the conversation about gluten and gluten-free. Often, you can see the food prep and kitchen area in a vendor booth and can identify potential areas of concern to inform your questions. Sometimes food is prepared at a separate location and brought to the vendor stand so you have no way of knowing how it is made—and the vendor staff may not know either.
One way to minimize the risk of gluten exposure is to simplify dishes—such as a plain baked potato with butter and sour cream instead of a stuffed one. Or rice and beans at a Mexican food stand, both of which are naturally gluten-free.
If you are going to a festival or fair, pack some gluten-free energy bars, a bag of mixed nuts, or other easy-to-carry, non-perishable snacks for a safe option in case you are not feeling confident about vendor food.
When in doubt, avoid trying any food that is unfamiliar or where you cannot be certain it is gluten-free or prepared in a safely gluten-free environment. Getting “glutened” could put a damper on your festival fun so err on the side of caution and have fun!
The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.
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